63-person Chinese 4th grade class elects 32 leaders; power worship permeates elementary schools

February 21, 2011Jing GaoOne Comment, , , , , , , , ,

Jing’s note: In a typical Chinese elementary school class that consists of 50 to 65 students, about 10-15 students (there is no definitive number) are assigned positions and given titles. Team leader is usually responsible for collecting and handing in homework assignments for the team. Different commissioners, as their names suggest, oversees different parts of school life, even though more often than not their responsibilities are not as high-sounding as their titles. For example, commissioner for learning may simply be the one whose GPA excels. Commissioner for arts may simply be the one who is good at singing, dancing and playing some musical instrument. The most “powerful” student in the class is the monitor, who hosts class meetings, calls the muster, works as teachers’ spy on mischievous students, and is often teachers’ fair-haired boy/girl.

From Wuhan Evening News

One class monitor, 10 class monitors on duty, four “commissioners for learning,” one “commissioner for recreation and activity,” 16 team leaders…Soon after the spring semester began, 32 “honchos” were elected from all the 63 students in Class 1, Grade 4 of Qianchuan No. 6 Elementary School in the city of Huangpi, Wuhan province.

The class advisor Wang Jianwei said that since last semester, his class has been following a voting system, in which teachers and students nominate candidates and students recommend themselves before the entire class vote by a show of hands. Some parents also suggested that their children should be offered an opportunity to be tempered. During the final review, teachers would take candidates’ academic performance, behavior and conduct into consideration. As a result, 32 were elected at the beginning of this semester. His class has more student cadres than any other class in the school.

“Although the new class cadre corps appears ‘oversized,’ I still hope more children can get the opportunity to steel themselves, even if that means what is given to them is a petty ‘position,’” Wang Jianwei said.

Photo: Poster of documentary film Please Vote for Me.

Ma Ying (pseudonym) is a class monitor on duty acting as an assistant to the class monitor. “I volunteered to be a student cadre, for steeling myself,” she said. Chen Fei (Pseudonym), a student without any title in the class, said, “Some student cadres are really powerful. When the teacher is away, the class monitor and the one on duty can put down the name of any classmate that plays little tricks and later ask the teacher to hand out punishment.” Quite a number of students interviewed said they covet the powers one can get after becoming a student cadre, including assigning duties and tasks and punishing classmates at will.

Some parents are divided over letting kids rule the class. Ms. Wang, mother of a student in this class said that she doesn’t want her child to be part of the top echelon. She thinks it will arouse kids’ vanity and adversely affect their academic performance. Another parent surnamed Liu said the child can benefit from being a class leader, as their overall capabilities and cultivation can be elevated in the process.

Ding Hui, director of education and administration at Qianchuan No.6 Elementary School, said that children’s desire to manage the class is driven by their hope to serve everyone, and that parents hope a title can boost children’s ego.

Zhu Quantao, the principal, believed it is a new experiment in education, although he said the school and its teachers should cautiously prevent children from “growing empleomaniac,” or obsessed with public posts. A stage to demonstrate oneself should be offered to as many students as possible.

Zhu Quantao said they are considering pushing forward with the mechanism to the entire school.

Some netizens think that being a student cadre can not only raise the child’s awareness of serving the community but raise the child’s confidence as well.

Some ask, if half of the class hold some form of official titles, would the self-esteem of the other half be hurt? Would the hoopla of the class election contribute to children’s obsession with official posts?

A netizen who goes by the name “Sunflower” said, not all children are well-suited to be a cadre. The most crucial thing about education is teaching students in accordance with their aptitude.

Jing: Schools are not a utopia independent of the real society. Notions, concepts and phenomena always manage to find their way into the schools and influence children. Parents’ values and foci can be reflected in children’s life in schools.

Supporters of the cadre election system claim children can feel greatly encouraged by their roles in the class. But why is that possible? Where does the confidence and encourage stem from? It boils down to the fact that in China, official rank is considered to be the sole criterion of one’s social worth, and that instead of public servants courting people’s votes and catering to people’s needs, Chinese cadres are admittedly superior than the masses and enjoy privileges that appeal to everyone.


According to Legal Evening News’ survey of schoolchildren in five districts of Beijing, 89.65% wanted to be a class cadre. In answer to the question “What class title do you want most,” among 180 respondents, 70.63% said “Class monitor;” 9.79% said “commissioner for disciplines.”

As for “Why do you want to be a student cadre,” 48.89% said “I want to make a contribution to the class;” 17.78% said “It’s domineering;” 14.81% said “I want to cotton up to teachers;” 11.85% said because their parents are cadres.


Photo: Hierarchy in Chinese elementary schools reflected by badges that students wear, if any.

Even Chinese children aged from 6 to 12 know a class cadre can “supervise people,” “go to teachers’ office often and get wind of first-hand information,” “boss people around,” and “earn extra points in competition for enrolling at prestigious junior high school through teachers’ recommendation and school assessment.”

Allured by the perks, parents even go so far as to bribe class advisors, according to Legal Evening News.

The whole thing is just a microcosm of the Chinese society.

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1 comment to “63-person Chinese 4th grade class elects 32 leaders; power worship permeates elementary schools”

  1. [...] one MiniTofu article about hierarchy and power worship in Chinese elementary schools, we illustrated the student cadre system with one picture: a student’s status within the system [...]

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